A LEGACY TO REMEMBER
Will you be remembered? We all want to be. A flood of genealogy websites demonstrates just how prevalent people’s desire is to complete their family history. We can be certain if people have the need to know their past in this generation, the future generations will acquire the same yearning. What will be your legacy? What will the world remember about you?
Everyone has the desire to leave evidence that their life was important and they made a difference in the lives of those they loved or came in contact with. Leaving a legacy is a gift of yourself in a collection of stories and events from your life—including all the joys, sorrows, and humor that you wish to share from your heart and soul. It could include your thoughts and feelings on your current situation; the beliefs, faith, values, and knowledge you have gained throughout life; stories and memories of important experiences and events; your hopes and prayers for those left behind. For the recipients of such a gift, there are indescribable feelings of gratefulness, significance, understanding and love. A legacy is treasured for its thoughtfulness and irreplaceable in its generosity of love.
Every day people are affected by the actions and words, whether positive or negative, of others they come in contact with. Whether there is an influence on their life at that precise moment or years later, such acts will never be forgotten from the moment of impact.
During an interview with a well-learned and eloquent 76 year old woman, I asked a question about the recipients in the attempt to spend just a few more minutes listening to this extraordinary lady’s legacy. As we sat in silence, tears began to swell in her eyes. I thought I would give her a minute to follow her emotions even though my heart was aching. I was conflicted in knowing if these were tears of sorrow or joy. As I reached out and touched her hand, she looked up at me and with a warm-hearted smile said, “My children are my whole life. I couldn’t love them any more if I tried, and at times believe me, I tried. God has richly blessed me by giving me the privilege to love and teach such wonderful kids. They are the largest piece of my legacy.” A few months later, Catherine died of pneumonia. Her legacy had been completed and Catherine’s unexpected gift to her children was ‘the most priceless blessing we had ever received from our mother as she lives on in our hopes and dreams’. Leaving a legacy is a generational means of sharing invaluable information that can make someone else’s life different. It may not seem particularly significant at the time because you do it with little effort, but what you know may be something that at least some of us would be influenced by.
Is it your time to reminisce over who you are and how you got there? Can you open the floodgate to write of your heartbreaking tragedies and recollect the happiest moments of your life that have made you… you? As Nichole Nordeman sings in her song Legacy, “I don't have to look too far or too long awhile to make a lengthy list of all that I enjoy.” So spend the time and engrave the love and care into your legacy.
Here are some ideas for creating your own legacy.
- Make a photo album or memory box with pictures. Personalize the photos by writing out the names, dates and/or story behind each one.
- Write a letter to your loved ones. Keep it positive with only the good memories.
- Make a videotape or audiotape of your memories and thoughts. Take it a step further and have the last words at your ‘celebration of life’ or funeral service.
- Place a few mementos from special places you have been in a memory box.
- Create a piece of artwork, such as a poem, a painting, or a quilt. Many people are not artistic, but this piece could be a good laugh for its recipients.
- Create a physical memorial, such as planting a tree or donating a bench to a local park.
- Organize an annual gathering, such as a barbeque or family picnic.
- Volunteer with a charity you support.
- Donate money to a charity important to you.
- Give your children important keepsakes or gifts. Write a note explaining why they are getting it and the item’s importance.
- Write a ‘bucket list’ of exciting things you wanted to do but never got around to it. You could always attempt to achieve one or two items on your list.
Leaving a legacy can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. You do not have to be a writer to tell a breathtaking story, or an artist to paint a speechless picture when your loved ones are the critics. In saying that, factors that could influence the type of legacy you leave are your time, abilities and resources. Try and not feel pressured by writing the perfect letter or gathering every trinket, but laugh and cry at the roller coaster ride resembling your life. Remember, the main reason for creating a legacy for your family and friends is to help them cope with their grief, while honoring your unforgettable, one of a kind life.
So whether you take on this next project, or hire someone to help you put your memoir into words, get ready for a rare opportunity that is life changing as you reflect on the person you have become through the events in your life, the things you have accomplished, the people you have loved, and the memories that you cherish. Chances are, this project will open your eyes to a new future.
Debra Munro, Silver Lining Transitions